Pam Halter has been a children’s book author since 1995. She has published two picture books, Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes (Concordia, 2001) . She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, received Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and won the Reader’s Choice Award in a short story contest hosted by Realm Makers and Brimstone Fiction in 2015. Pam also is a children’s book freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. www.pamhalter.com
Kim Sponaugle is a graduate of The Art Institute of Philadelphia and began working for David C. Cook Publishing designing children’s curriculum and products. But she soon found her heart’s vocation in children’s illustration. In 2001, Kim illustrated her first picture book series Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes with Concordia Publishing House. In 2007, Kim started Picture Kitchen Studio and has had the pleasure of interacting and working with both traditional publishers and self-published authors. She has illustrated more than 60 picture books is also a children’s book cover designer. www.picturekitchenstudio.com
Kim and I met through a friend in May of 1995. I answered the phone one day to hear, “My name is Kim Sponaugle. You don’t know me, but I got your number from Sue Smith at church and she says you write children’s books. I’m an illustrator and have been looking for someone to work with.”
We met, exchanged our work, and decided we wanted to work together. The result of that was publishing two picture books through Concordia in 2001: Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes. We’re also the best of friends and have gone on many-an adventure, eaten a ton of brownies and drank gallons of coffee, and laughed (well, snorted) our way through some crazy fun story ideas together.
It’s a rare thing when a traditional publishing house takes an author/illustrator team, and while we’ve created many other books, no one has picked us up since then. We weren’t disillusioned because we knew God had put us together and it’s all about His timing. We continued to work on our projects as well as separate things. I’ve published a couple of magazine articles, some daily devotions, and have contributed to several anthologies. I’ve also taught many workshops and attended loads of conferences. And have won 2 awards for my writing.
We’ve learned so much about the craft of children’s books, we decided to go out on our own with Willoughby. Our goal with Willoughby and Friends is to teach children that it’s okay to be friends with people different from themselves. That sometimes it’s hard at first to really know someone. Kids can be rough and even mean, but there’s usually a reason for it. We need to be patient and try our best to see past the outside. Willoughby’s stories aren’t teaching stories, though. We show what we want our readers to learn by simply having it play out in the story. I like to describe Willoughby and Friends as The Smurfs meet Sesame Street, with Willoughby as our “Big Bird” who wants everyone to be friends. Our first book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch, has Scripture in the beginning: Ecc.4:9 “Two are better than one … if one falls the other can help him up.” It’s never said in the story. It’s shown in the story.
The question we hear the most is, “Where did you get the idea for Willoughby?”
I have to credit Kim with that. We meet often and brainstorm lots of book ideas. Usually over chocolate and coffee. Ha! And sometimes we get laughing so hard, we cry. It’s so much fun to brainstorm with a friend!
Well, one day, Kim said, “We need a story about unlikely friends. Like dragons and fairies. You know, big and small.”
I thought about it, wrote down some ideas and wrote the first draft of Willoughby’s Itch. Kim approved. We always collaborate together on both the story and the artwork. And after several drafts and a few tries to sell him traditionally, as I said above, we decided to do it ourselves. We’re very happy we did. Kids love Willoughby! And we’re having a blast marketing him.
Kim and I are also planning to offer mentoring workshops and weekends for picture book authors and illustrators. We’re hoping to start this fall. Subscribe to my blog or Kim’s blog for updates.